Entries in Jon Robinson (2)

Wednesday
Dec142016

Should Mike Mularkey Be Considered For Coach Of The Year?

Recently, there was an article on NFL.com written by Bucky Brooks, ranking the top 5 candidates for NFL coach of the year. The article list these 5 coaches (in order):

  1. Andy Reid, Chiefs
  2. Jason Garrett, Cowboys
  3. Jim Caldwell, Lions
  4. Jack Del Rio, Raiders
  5. Bill Belichick, Patriots

 After seeing this list, I have some definite opinions on where Coach Mularkey fits into this list, and even why some of them are on the list at all. Let's take these candidates one at a time.

Andy Reid, as the article states, has won 20 out of the last 23 regular season games. However, if this is supposed to be about this season I'm not sure it's fair to consider those prior 10 games. Therefore, let's just give him the 10 out of the last 13. That's still a fair comparison, and I think he definitely deserves to be on this list. He has dealt with injuries in key positions, but still had crucial victories over the Broncos, Raiders (twice), and Falcons.

Jason Garrett, although I'm sure he is a capable coach, I've always thought of him more lucky than a true coaching genius. Yes, he is dealing with 2 rookies in key positions, but at least in one of those positions it wasn't a stretch to get a quality player. Ezekiel Elliott was a high first-round pick and most likely going to have an easier time behind the great offensive line of the Cowboys. Also with this line, Dak Prescott was going to have plenty of time to throw the ball. To be quite honest, I can't see why Garrett is on this list.

Jim Caldwell is a surprising choice for the list and on the surface he may actually be worthy, but when you look deeper he seems like a bag full of confusion. With early losses to the Packers, Titans, and Bears, and wins over very shaky teams like the Eagles, Redskins, and Jaguars. He seems to be a coach that squanders the talent he has more than focus them. Yes, the Lions are currently in the lead of the NFC North, but I forecast that this Lions team won't be there much longer.

Jack Del Rio is a coach I believe that mirrors Mike Mularkey. He has had coaching opportunities in the past without success, but now has found a home where he is thriving. He has taken a young QB in Carr and WR in Cooper, and turned this offense into a potent weapon. Also, even though the Raiders have some issues on defense, they are coming together nicely.

Finally, Bill Belichick, I hate to admit it, is one of the best coaches in history. This season he started with his biggest crutch (Brady) suspended. He came out of the first 4 weeks with a 3-1 record. Now he continues to win without his 2nd best player (Gronkowski). Admittedly, he is one of my least favorite people on one of my least favorite teams, but you cannot deny that he wins.

Seeing how I would eliminate both Caldwell and Garrett from his list, that means I need to add 2 more. So, let me make the pitch for a couple of coaches here. The first one is obvious. I think Mike Mularkey is extremely deserving to be in this list. This Titans team has been a screwed up mess over the last couple of seasons, and even before that was heading into chronic mediocrity. Granted, he has been given much better players to work with by Jon Robinson. Although Ken Wisenhunt had many of these players, he showed that he was absolutely not a match for this franchise. So, Mularkey was able to build this group of players into a true team. That is harder to do at the NFL level than any other. He has also put together a fantastic staff with the additions of Russ Grimm as the offensive line coach, Terry Robiskie as offensive coordinator, and moving Dick LeBeau to full-time defensive coordinator. He truly should be in this list.

The other coach to consider is Dirk Koetter of the Buccaneers. Many of the same issues the Titans possessed also belonged to the Bucs. However, Koetter has harnessed Jameis Winston to take this team to a tie for 1st in the NFC South (yet another Titans similarity).

So, here is my list in order. I'm trying not to be "homer", but I'll let you make that judgement.

  1. Jack Del Rio
  2. Mike Mularkey
  3. Bill Belichick
  4. Andy Reid
  5. Dirk Koetter

At this point I believe the Coach of the Year is still up for grabs. Coach Mularkey could very well end up being at the top of this list with a successful playoff run. This has been a truly impressive coaching job by a man that has been minimalized over his career. All I can say is well done, Coach Mularkey, well done.

Friday
Aug122016

Preseasons First "Practice" Test

Saturday will be the first (practice) test for the "new and improved" Titans. I'm sure that the team is excited, nervous, and chomping-at-the-bit to start hitting another team. The coaching staff is ready to prove themselves to the organization, but also to the city of Nashville. Finally, and probably most importantly, Jon Robinson is going to be on the edge of his chair to see if the risks he took will help this team escape the dumpster fire lit, dark alley they have lived in for the last two season. 

There are going to be some interesting story lines that have already been brewing for the last couple of weeks. First (and most importantly), can this offensive line keep Marcus Mariota from getting pounded into an early retirement. There are the obvious starters in Lewan, Warmack, and Jones. Then there is the rookie, Conklin. He has had a fantastic camp, but can he continue that work when it meets with direct competition? Next, there is the left guard spot that is currently penciled in to Quentin Spain. He is a second-year, off-the-street free agent out of West Virginia. Right now this is obviously the weak point of the line on paper. The depth chart shows the rookie from Arkansas, Sebastian Tretola as the backup and second-year man Andy Gallik bringing up the rear. I have to believe that this is a very close race between these 3 men and it will be interesting to see how many mistakes this coaching staff will allow before making a change. My guess would be that if a veteran guard became available in free agency, that this GM will be more than willing to make the move to acquire them. I wouldn't even rule out a trade if this spot is seen as the difference between rebuilding and the playoffs.

Another storyline that cannot be ignored is wide receiver. Don't expect to see probable slot-receiver Kendall Wright in the mix due to his recent injury, but there are players on this squad that might need to "ball out" in order to make it onto this roster again this year. Yes, Justin Hunter, I'm talking about you. Hunter's University of Tennessee days are well behind him now so his "favorite son" status is long gone. He has been "ok" in camp, but that won't make this team any better, and this front office will not wait any longer for you to find a way to harness your raw talent into a bona fide deep threat. When you have a late-round rookie (Tajae Sharpe) step in and earn the starting slot over Hunter and second-year physical phenom Green-Beckham, that speaks not only to the skills of the rookie, but volumes to how this coaching staff will not put up with someone who isn't willing to put forth their full effort on every play and practice. The wide receiving corp also contains an aging but serviceable veteran in Andre Johnson. He is looking to finish his career on a more positive note than his pedestrian numbers from last season. Let's say that Wright, Sharpe, and free-agent acquisition Rishard Matthews are our starters. That most likely leaves 3 more open slots to fill. DGB, Johnson and Hunter will be competing to fill those spots with Harry Douglas, Andrew Turzilli, and Tre McBride. Douglas will most likely be one of the men on the outside because he hasn't brought enough to the table that will match his veteran salary. Turzilli or McBride will make this team and the other will be placed on the practice squad (as long as they clear waivers). In my opinion, that means Hunter is out unless he can prove his worth throughout the entire preseason. There are also two other receivers (Ben Roberts and Reece Horn) on the chart that won't make the team, but are playing for that chance they might fit in somewhere else.

This team appears to be on the cusp of making a real and meaningful change of direction to move toward a sustained return to playoff contenders. Yes, this may be too much to ask at this stage, but can this game help us as fans move from hoping a team will get better to expecting with few questions that a team will be better. Maybe I'm just tired of never finding that gold at the end of the rainbow, and am now on the edge of demanding a better product on the field at Nissan Stadium.